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The Hubble Space Telescope: A Year in Review
Hubble image of globular star cluster NGC 6397 This Hubble image of white dwarf stars in the ancient cluster NGC 6397 was released near the end of 2007. Credit: NASA / ESA / H. Richer (University of British Columbia)
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Rarely does a day pass that doesn’t include some news about NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. In 2007, astronomers continued to bid for time with this amazing observatory for observations of the cosmos, resulting in more than 17 science stories.

Google, the company that hosts the popular Internet search engine, teamed with the Space Telescope Science Institute in August 2007 to produce "Sky in Google Earth." The popular new feature allows folks to cruise the heavens right from their desktop computer.

"This is a fun program for amateur astronomers, scientists, educators, and the public to explore space," said Carol Christian, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute and one of the developers of the Sky in Google Earth project. "It’s like having the heavens at your fingertips, or your own planetarium."

On the home front, Goddard engineers were in full swing, continuing preparations for Servicing Mission 4 -- the fifth and final shuttle mission to Hubble.

Astronauts practice in the NBL under the watchful eye of NASA engineers and safety divers. Astronauts practice on a Hubble model underwater at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston under the watchful eyes of NASA engineers and safety divers. Credit: NASA
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Specialty tools and crew aids the astronauts will use to upgrade and repair the telescope were crafted and reworked here at Goddard. Components and science instruments were vigorously tested and retested in our state-of-the-art facilities, and the astronauts honed their techniques on a mock up of Hubble in the clean room at Goddard. Even the thermal blankets, which help protect the telescope from extreme on-orbit temperature swings, were cut and sewn at a blanket-making facility located on site.

Astronauts will have only five days during their 11-day shuttle mission to perform several painstaking tasks. They will outfit Hubble with two new science instruments, gyroscopes, batteries and a Fine Guidance Sensor. The crew will also attempt the first-ever on orbit repair of two existing science instruments, wrap certain parts of Hubble’s exterior with new layers of insulation, and install a docking ring for safe rendezvous with a future spacecraft.

It’s an ambitious schedule, but the Hubble team has been here before and they have their sights firmly set on a fall 2008 launch. Looks like 2008 will be another exciting year for the Hubble team.
Susan Hendrix
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center